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Book Review - The Trail of Tears by D. L. Birchfield

"The Trail of Tears" by D. L. Birchfield (ISBN#0-8368-5381-4)

Description: Part of the Landmark Events in American History series - This series explores the causes and significance of key events in the history of the United States and introduces readers to the people who influence those events. Each book uses primary sources, archival photographs and illustrations, maps, time lines, and focus boxes to bring these stories of the nation's past alive.

Highlights: I've been researching Native American's history and migrations (voluntary and involuntary) throughout North America and it's been incredibly eye-opening and, at times, very heart wrenching. I found this book at the library and it is full of great simplified history that makes it a good resource. Here are a few highlights I've found within the 48 pages...

By 1500 BC, corn was being grown in the American Southwest.

By 1000 BC, corn was being grown by tribes in the American Southeast.

500 BC, "Mound Builders" arose in the river valleys of the woodlands areas east of the Mississippi River. At first the mounds were for burials and then they evolved into temple mounds. (Reviewer's note: There are a ton of mounds you can visit in Northeastern Louisiana). By 1300 AD, over 100,000 mounds had been built in the Mississippi River Valley.

The largest city of mound builders was Cahokia (Illinois). The base of the largest mound is 6 square miles - larger than the base of Egypt's Great Pyramid. 30,000 people lived here between 1100-1300 AD but by 1680 AD only a small village remained.

European diseases (especially highly contagious diseases such as small pox and cholera ) killed about 90% of the natives throughout the 1500's and 1600's.

Native Americans participated in the North American military until the War of 1812.

There were numerous Indian Removal Acts passed by the government to force natives onto reserved areas (reservations) or into less desirable areas. A lot of natives starved because either the hunting on those lands was poor or they did not have the proper knowledge or tools for agriculture. Many of the treaties promised food and supplies but dishonest Indian agents did not provide them or provided spoiled products.

The Cherokee created an alphabet with 85 symbols ("talking leaves") which was adopted in 1821.

Video Review - History Channel - Comanche Warriors

The History Channel released this interesting documentary, Comanche Warriors, several years ago and you may be able to borrow a copy from your local library.

For more than 150 years the Comanche of the Southwest were ferocious raiders who struck terror into the hearts of the plains tribes Mexican villagers and frontier settlers. Once a ragtag band of scavengers the Comanche transformed themselves into superior warriors by becoming the first Native American tribe to tame wild mustangs. In less than a generation the Comanche became the world's greatest horsemen and with their calculated attacks on wagon trains and a penchant for decorating their lances with the scalps of those who fought back they also became the most feared and powerful tribe in the American heartland. Featuring incisive expert interviews and fascinating archival photos find out how these great warriors rose to power and chart the course of their tragic demise. COMANCHE WARRIORS is a revealing look at the motivation tactics weapons and legends of the nomadic Native Americans known as the "Lords of the Southern Plains."

  • Before Westward Expansion, the Comanche tribes lived throughout the Central Plains region (stretching from Kansas to Central Texas), an area roughly 20,000 square miles.
  • They were nomadic hunters and had a reputation for being fine horse breeders/riders
  • Neighbors included the Apache, Kiowa, and Ute
  • The name "Comanche" may have come from the Ute tribe's word "Kohmaht" ("Those who are against us")
  • The Comanche tribe actually consists of many sub-bands, including the Quahadas, Nokoni, Penatukas, Yaparuhkas, Lacotsarutas
  • Each band had a leader who was chosen for his valor and skills
  • By the end of the 18th century, the hunting grounds was known as "Comancheria" as they had driven off most of the other tribes
  • A warrior's status in the tribe was based on courage, stealth and ruthlessness
  • Children were trained early to use bow and arrow (made of ash or hickory wood)
  • In the late 1700's, Comanches came into contact with French fur traders and traded furs for flintlock rifles, but the single-shot muskets were worse than bow and arrows
  • Starting in 1834, US troops move into the Comanche territory
  • February 1840, Comanche leaders go to San Antonio for a peace treaty but it ends up a blood bath
  • 1859, Federal Reservation (eventually becomes Oklahoma)
  • 1861, less than 5000 Comanches are left after wars, disease and removal to reservations kill many off
  • 1874, Red River War, was the end of the Comanche defiance against moving to the reservations completely.